Friday 4 May 2012

And so Battersea it is... Maybe

We from CFCtruth welcome the news today that the club have made an offer for the Battersea Power Station site and have revealed ambitious and visionary plans for a new stadium. As we said in our blog posted earlier today, we were aware that this was the BPS bid deadline day and we were cautiously optimistic that the club would make an offer.

The initial reaction to the announcement from fans have been overwhelmingly positive with particular enthusiasm being shown for the plan for a 15,000 capacity, single-tier stand for home fans and the apparent determination of the club to avoid a generic (but cheap) bowl design. We at CFCtruth also welcome this acknowledgement of fans’ preferences and an understanding by the club of what works and what doesn’t in modern stadia design.

The idea of moving stadiums does not seem to be a major concern for most Chelsea supporters. They recognise, as we do, that Stamford Bridge is too small a ground to build sustained domestic and European success from and also understand that the site remains hugely restricted in terms of potential expansion. It is also clear that almost everyone likes the proposed new location. Battersea is widely considered historical Chelsea-territory and the idea of stadium both adjacent to a building like the Power Station and next to the Thames offers the potential for a truly iconic, world-class stadium design.

Of course there are naysayers – people who would rather give up football forever than consider a move from Stamford Bridge. And there are those who remain convinced that this is all part of an elaborate master plan by the owners and board of Chelsea FC to ‘steal the club away from its true fans’.  For now, we believe these people can safely be ignored – we consider it a very optimistic sign that so many CPO ‘No’ voters at last autumn’s EGM have already come out and said that this is a plan that they feel they could support. But that is a battle that the club must win at some point in order for these plans to move forward – they will still need to secure 75% of CPO votes at a future EGM. Let us all hope that this process is better handled by the club next time.

And of course that is not the only obstacle that these plans will need to overcome.  There are reportedly many other bidders for the site including some very well known and prosperous developers. Not just that but it also appears that Wandsworth Council are unconvinced that the site is right for stadium and reports suggest the Mayor’s Office has also expressed its scepticism (its concerns mainly seem to focus on transport issues). We hope that the club’s detailed plans not just for the stadium but for the regeneration of the whole area can convince them that this plan is a ‘goer’.

So the process will continue for the next few months until a decision is made on the preferred bidder for the site. CFCtruth will follow the process as it unfolds as well as any potential knock-on effects elsewhere. For example, we do wonder exactly what Hammersmith & Fulham are now thinking about the club’s Battersea plan and the potential economic loss for the borough. Equally, could CapCo be considering ‘what might have been’ for the Earls Court site if Chelsea do go ahead and choose a different path? Just speculation for now but we do wonder whether this announcement might not focus the minds of certain other parties and give them a chance to reconsider their options before it is too late...

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